Palou survives late chaos to take commanding Detroit victory

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Photo credit: Penske Entertainment | Joe Skibinski

Álex Palou converted his pole position to a solid victory in a Detroit Grand Prix that was less chaotic than some had expected. The first start was waved-off because the line-up wasn’t to IndyCar’s liking, but the second attempt was given the green flag. Scott Dixon gave fellow Kiwi McLaughlin a little tap, but in midfield it was Calum Ilott who hit Kyle Kirkwood in the back. The Briton had to retire while the Long Beach-winner had to pit for a new rear wing.

In the following caution Kirkwood and Colton Herta, among other drivers. decided to drop the alternate tyres. At the restart Marcs Ericsson tags McLaughlin, resulting in him being passed by teammate Dixon.

Palou then puts the pedal to the metal and builds a gap by eight tenths per lap. In the meantime Will Power pulls a dummy on Ericsson and progresses to fifth place. His hard tyres start to work better and better, and he gains another position when he outbrakes Dixon from quite far. Pagenaud drops back really quick, showing that the alternate tyre doesn’t last too long. He gets passed left, right and center, while Power promotes himself to second place by passing Grosjean.

He has a 10 second gap to Palou, who begins to struggle on the alternate tyre, and within a few laps the gap is reduced to five seconds. On lap 29 Palou decides to stop for new, hard tyres and is followed by McLaughlin, who is passed by Dixon after he gets out of pit lane. Five laps later Rosenqvist and Power stop, the latter who comes back on track right behing Palou.

One lap later O’Ward and Rossi stop, but O’Wards left rear tyre is not fitted correctly, so the car stops when driving away. He gets pushed back and is restarted, but drops a lap down. Armstrong, who is looking competitive almost takes out teammate Ericsson in the hairpin of turn 3.

The second caution of the day comes as O’Ward tries to unlap himself on Santino Ferrucci, but he goes straight into the concrete wall. Ericsson seizes the moment and makes a pitstop. The restart on lap 49 is chaotic because Ferrucci is inbetween the frontrunners. Rinus VeeKay manages to pass Armstrong, but because Sting Ray Robb bins it in the hairpin, another caution is called. This caution is extended because Graham Rahal crashes in the outside wall of turn 1. He gets subsequently hit by Benjamin Pedersen, who is restarted and can continue.

At the restart Power pulls the same trick he has done before on Palou, and races off into the distance. Herta hits Agustín Canapino and damages his front wing. A few laps later VeeKay gets passed by Armstrong and pits straight away to get rid of the soft tyres. The same soft tyres under Power’s car have also given up, which gave Palou the opportunity to catch up again.

Power outbrakes himself in the hairpin, allowing Palou to pass. Almost all front runners make their final stop in lap 66, with Rossi and Grosjean following a lap later. When Grosjean rejoins the track he gets hit by McLaughlin, while Rossi loses a spot to teammate Rosenqvist. Newgarden is now the leader, and he stops in lap 70, promoting Ericsson to the front, who is closely followed by Palou.

With 24 laps to go Ericsson pits and gives the lead to Palou, who has created a healthy gap to Power. Five laps later Grosjean crashes in turn 4, bringing out the caution, which is extended because David Malukas has crashed in turn 9.

At the restart there is a poor getaway for Palou, which causes the field to bunch up. Power needs to make evasive action, which means he gets tagged by Dixon. It eventually leads to Rossi being in second place, while Palou hasn’t really suffered from his bad getaway. Canapino tries to overtake VeeKay, but he overshoots the hairpin, losing a couple of spots in the progress. Further back Ferrucci and Robb get tangled, leading to yet another caution.

The final restart goes quite well: Power overtakes Rossi in turn 4, and Rosenqvist does the same in turn 1. Rossi takes back the place immediately because Rosenqvist had too much wheelspin. Herta misses turn 3 and gets passed by Newgarden, but is then hit by VeeKay in turn 4. He proceeds to take revenge in the following corner by putting VeeKay in the wall, which causes the latter to lose a lot of places.

The final action of the race is when Rosenqvist (quite aggressively) fights past Rossi in the hairpin for the final podium spot, who then loses another spot to Dixon. Palou doesn’t case about that as he passes the chequered flag first, followed by Power and Rosenqvist. Dixon comes fourth, just before Rossi. Kirkwood has made a great comeback to sixth place, in front of McLaughlin, Armstrong and Ericsson. Indy 500 champion Josef Newgarden completes the top 10.